Catching Pigeons: In the Van’
Our regular column previews the racing action for Saturday and highlights interesting jockey plans for the next few days.
Vaniteux: Fancied to score at Ascot on Saturday under Paul Moloney.
With Different Gravey and Thomas Campbell scoring in the same colours at Ascot on Friday, confidence is high that Vaniteux can produce some much-needed spark in the two-mile chase division with victory in the Shawbrook Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
A high-class performer over hurdles, he did well over fences last season last term, winning two well-endowed events before unseating in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival. Although beaten when he departed the scene, he had done his best to take the fight to the mighty Douvan, and looks a great prospect for the Nicky Henderson team moving forward. His work has been very solid in the last four weeks, and he starts the campaign on a very workable mark.
First time out is probably as good a time as any to catch Vaniteux and Paul Moloney looks just the right man for the job, with Henderson's options limited at present thanks to the removal from the equation of Nico de Boinville – more on that later.
Laser Light can kick off an important afternoon for Alan King on the right note with victory in the opening Mitre Events & Leisure Novices' Hurdle. The five year old looked well above average when seeing off subsequent winners Rolling Dylan and Copain de Classe at Chpstow on his debut and is reported to have improved for the run. Unlike some of these rivals, the recent rain will aid his cause and his turn of foot may just be too sharp for the Warren Greatrex-trained Aloomomo
Royal Regatta has plenty to find on ratings in the Stella Artois 1965 Chase, but he would have finished much closer than third behind Third Intention at Aintree on his comeback had he not blundered at the third last and will be sharper for the run. He has shown his liking for this course in the past and will handle just about any surface.
Yes, he'd be a lot better off with these if the race were a handicap, but there's a chance he could get an easy lead here and he looks a surprisingly solid options against rivals who are have questions to answer over the ground and/or their present wellbeing.
Tales Of The Tweed, a stablemate of Vaniteux, is a much stronger individual than when a beaten favourite on his only start so far at Kelso in the Spring and he should go well in the closing Neptune Investment National Hunt Flat race.
Small fields are the order of the day at rain-ridden Haydock, but in the most competitive contest on the card, it may take a chance to go with Affaire d'Honneur off his appealingly light weight in the Betfair Exchange Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.
Harry Whittington attempted to win some top handicaps over two miles with this French-bred last season and he didn't enjoy the best of luck in the Betfair at Newbury in February nor in the Imperial Cup at Sandown, after which time was called for the season.
Having done well for his summer's break, confidence was high at the start of this new campaign that a big prize would come his way, but he did not convince when winning on his comeback at Fontwell and he found things happening much too quick on his return to the Sussex course on his latest start, leading to a re-think.
Connections have opted for a significant step up in trip here, and if he can recapture his best form with the fitting of cheekpieces for the first time he is capable of a big show at a decent price. The switch from hurdles to brush fences could well also help his somewhat suspect jumping, and he should definitely appreciate the return to softer ground – remember how testing it was at Newbury when he was fourth in the Betfair Hurdle, arguably the performance of his life.
Oliver Sherwood focuses his attention on Huntingdon where his smart performer The Organist launches her fencing career in the Brian Stone 50th Birthday Celebration Mares' Novices' Chase. Bought by JP McManus in the close season after she was put up for sale by the Million In Mind Syndicate, she boasts some consistent form at a good level over the larger obstacles and has been very solid in her preliminary schooling sessions.
Lucy Wadham is always a trainer to follow closely at this course, and she should go close with Miss Spent in the opening Pamela Lawrence-Teulon Mares' Novices' Hurdle. Although the form of her only outing so far over timber so far does not look over inspiring, her stable were not at their most effective last season, and she will more than make her presence felt if reproducing her useful bumper form from the previous campaign.
Harebell is worth a bet to step up on her debut effort at Doncaster in the 32Red Casino Maiden Stakes at Wolverhampton's evening card. Hampered by a slow start, Ralph Beckett's filly then ran green and did not pick up until the race was virtually over. She did well to finish fourth behind Fleeting Motion, and will be suited by this step up to an extended mile – the fact that there are a few debutants from big stables in the line-up should make her a backable each-way price.
Also worth looking out for on the Wolverhampton card is the Ed Dunlop-trained Social Media, who wasn't beaten for lack of stamina when moved up in trip last time out. Connections will be keen to get a win into this homebred filly, who doesn't do anything quickly, but who may appreciate the services of Luke Morris in the saddle.
American could be value to beat the well-regarded Missed Approach in the Bathwick Tyres Novices' Chase at Exeter on Sunday. Harry Fry did not find the six year old easy to train last season, but he showed his ability with an emphatic success over Label Des Obeaux in a novice hurdle at Ascot a year ago. This three miles on a galloping course looks the ideal launch point for this unexposed gelding and a big run at a big price is anticipated under Noel Fehily.
Fehily is a man in demand at present, having been snapped up to ride My Tent Or Yours for Henderson at Haydock on Saturday and he is reportedly likely to team up with the same trainer for Altior's eagerly-awaited novice chase debut at Kempton on Monday.
The leading two-mile novice hurdler last season, he has grown and matured during the summer and connections are keen to send him over birch rather than stick for another season over hurdles. His schooling under the currently side-lined Nico de Boinville was excellent, and it was no different under top-notch stand-in Fehily in a session over the Seven Barrows schooling fences a couple of days ago.
Looking further ahead, desperation to get a run in to some of the last of the Newmarket-trained maidens sees some high-profile trainers considering options they would usually quickly eschew on the Fibresand at Southwell on Tuesday. while a good word has also been heard for unraced Peter Chapple-Hyam two-year-old Fivetwoeight, who makes his debut at Kempton on Wednesday evening.
Rather than resting on his Group One laurels from this season, James Fanshawe still has some nice horses to run on the All-weather in the weeks ahead and Emmeshing ought to go well at Chelmsford on Monday.